New Newcastle Jets recruit Bobby Burns revealed he planned to study mathematics at an elite university in Europe, before deciding to focus on professional football and joining Scottish side Heart of Midlothian.
Burns signed for the Jets last month on a season-long loan from Hearts.
“I got offered to go to Bristol City and Rochdale when I was 16,” the Northern Irishman explained to The World Game.
“I was doing my A levels, I was studying maths and sports science, and I got three stars and an A.
“I did fairly well and the plan was to go to university and study maths or finance [at University College Dublin], but then Hearts came in in May, during my exams, so it was a bit manic. They offered me to sign.”
Burns inked a three-year deal with Hearts in June last year and left Northern Ireland to move to Edinburgh. He made five first-team appearances for the Jambos last season, spending five months on loan with Livingston where he played eight games.
The 19-year-old has kept up his studies, combining them with the rigours of full-time football.
“I’ve always been obsessed with being busy, I hate kind of free time,” he admits.
“It’s one of the things I struggle with playing full-time football. I’m actually doing a university degree at the minute through The Open University.
“Maths didn’t really suit the format of The Open University, so I changed to business management with accounting and sports science. So it’s kind of a mix of business, maths and sport.
“I’m a year into it and I’m going to continue it here. The reason I do it is to give myself a back-up plan and it keeps me busy.”
Burns has landed in Newcastle to provide competition for the left back spot at the Jets. With Ivan Vujica departing for Western United, the former Lisburn Youth and Cliftonville junior will compete with John Koutroumbis for the fullback position.
But the versatile Burns, who has represented his country at both Under-19 and Under-21 levels, can play in central midfield, left wing and even up front.
“I’ve always been versatile,” he said.
“Playing football’s kind of the same in all positions, you use similar attributes. I’m kind of OK at everything, instead of being really good at something. I’m comfortable with both feet.
“It’s only in the last six to eight months I’ve really focused more on centre midfield and left back. They’re probably my two best positions although I can play left wing or up front if I’m needed to.
“There’s a lot of good centre midfielders at the Jets at the moment so I’m going to focus on getting time at left back. Myself and Jonny Kontroumbis is here, and he’s a good player as well. I’m looking forward to the battle.”
Newcastle have a bye in round one and start their season against arch rivals Central Coast on October 10.
The tough-tackling fullback has quickly found his feet in his new surroundings and is raring to go.
“I’ve been surprised how quickly I’ve settled in,” Burns said.
“Having a bye in the first round has given me an opportunity to settle in and get used to training. I’m just itching to go now. Preseason has been going on that long, I’m just itching for the first game and hopefully we can start the season well.”